Ways of Reading: Advanced Reading Skills for Students of English Literature by Martin Montgomery, et al


Rated
: Two stars

Publisher: Routledge

Published: December 5th 2012

Edition: 4th (first published July 23rd 1992)

My two stars rating is especially unfortunate as I was eager to delve into what promised to be some good learning. Alas, it did seem I had my hopes up. Ways of Reading was on my required reading for a college course four years ago, I almost forgot about it until I repacked the bookshelf.

I’m working to improve my writing with my refocus on my blogs and I figured better reading made for better writing. I’m primarily a pleasure reader, and while general comprehension and critical reading skills have sharpened over time I wasn’t fully prepared for the likes of ShakespeareThe Odyssey and Sir Gawain and the Green Knight.

My initial flip-through revealed significant chunks of text but I was somewhat reassured by the clear arrangement of sections and units that outlined specific topics I’d been struggling with like metaphors and intended meanings. This was looking good.

Continue reading “Ways of Reading: Advanced Reading Skills for Students of English Literature by Martin Montgomery, et al”
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Currently reading: Wild Embers by Nikita Gill

For about three months, I’ve been juggling a few works of poetry. Night Sky with Exit Wounds by Ocean Vuong; Up Jump the Boogie by John Murillo; and most recently Wild Embers by Nikita Gill which I immediately took to.

Now as you might guess, I didn’t finish any yet but I can already tell I’ll appreciate their final masterpieces. Each of the three represents, but not reduced to, a different pair of eyes to separate cultures.

So with Night Sky we’ve got a Vietnamese-born migrant who writes of family, grief, war, and love with overwhelming cadence at times, however, at other times pretty vague (for poetry I dare say) that I can’t begin to guess what I’m supposed to take from it. Again, I’m not finished so this is all subject to change. I discovered him when I came across his poem ‘Someday I Will Love Ocean Vuong‘ on The Yorker and I was hooked on the flow of words from one cleverly crafted concept to the next, and more importantly, the gentle cry of the message on self-love.

John Murillo, a mixture of African-American and Latino-American influences. I have my subscription to Poets.org to thank with the introduction of his Mercy, Mercy, Me. Some works more than others remind me sharply on how vicariously I live through authors, this was one of them. His poems, lyrics to the music you didn’t know you needed to hear, he elicits emotions in naked unpretentious renderings of memory, the basketball blacktops visions, sidewalks conversations, and recollections of family, struggle and identity. It’s warm. It’s soulful, it’s smart and engaging.

Wild Embers: Poems of Rebellion, Fire, and Beauty so far is panning out to be my cup of tea. Nikita Gill, unlike the previous two, is a British-Indian writer, living somewhere in the south of England. ‘Dragon’s Breath’ and ‘Fire‘ were the first two poems I’ve read of her off Pinterest and they stole me away like thieves in broad daylight. Continue reading “Currently reading: Wild Embers by Nikita Gill”

An Adventurous Cub Meets Nessssss by R. N. Dunne

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  • Age Range: 3 – 12 years
  • Grade Level: Kindergarten – 6
  • Paperback: 40 pages

Rated it: 4 Stars

I’ve received a free copy from Author Marketing Ideas on behalf of the author in exchange for an honest review.

The Cubs are eager to go on their very first camping trip. It follows the adventure and mishap of friends Darrel and Troy. The anticipation of the entire group was clearly palpable; I recognize the feeling precisely when I recall my first field trip to the big city when I was about ten. It’s like a new layer of the big wide world is being peeled away, a heady sensation and one easy to get carried away with.

For instance, when it comes to listening to the adults who know better when they tell you to not venture from designated safe areas and to not go beyond the specifically marked ones, in red no less. Unfortunately, these two got the message the hard way when they ignored the warnings. They encountered a certain critter by the riverside and to say the least things took a turn for the worse.

I was especially touched by Darrel’s thoughtful gesture to keep Troy warm before he ran off for help. It was informative also for Troy to note that he must stay calm and still to prevent further complications from a particular injury he sustained, and later in on the importance of not startling the critter with a loud noise. It’s excellent for children to know these useful bits of information when interacting with the environment. Then there’s Darrel’s quick thinking, taking the initiative with dealing with the second threat.

After having read this, kids can take away a reasonable set of knowledge from just thirty-four pages. Initially, I thought Nessssss had something to do with Nessie, the Loch Ness Monster because I’ve never Continue reading “An Adventurous Cub Meets Nessssss by R. N. Dunne”

Fear It: Book Slump | My foray into Stoicism

It’s official. I can’t read any more for or at least for the foreseeable future.

I don’t know if it’s because I’m forcing myself into non-fiction or that I’m restricting myself to fewer books at once as I’m wont to read at least four at any given time. Which would be counter-intuitive for the very reason I tried that in the first place: concentration.

But I’m inclined to believe it’s because how much I’m living inside my head lately. The saddest thing is that I’ve gotten used to the hole this has left in me, I’ve worn a path around it.

However, I decided to be optimistic or perhaps the word should be realistic. I’m too used to bemoaning things that I can actually change or learn from. Baby steps: a chapter a day of my current primary read “Subliminal: How Your Unconscious Mind Rules Your Behavior” by Leonard Mlodinow.

Then once a day introspection from “The Daily Stoic: 366 Meditations on Wisdom …” which should be simple enough.

Stoicism

As I’m here I’ll get it out that I’m investing time into learning the Stoic teachings of the likes of Seneca The Younger, Epectitus and Marcus Aurelius. I’ve been listening to The Practical Stoic Podcast and signed up for The Daily Stoic newsletters and even joined their Facebook group.

It’s … enlightening. In fact, it’s possibly the most practical philosophy out there and it’s reflected in one of Aurelius’ quotes:

Waste No More Time Arguing What A Good Man Should Be. Be One.”

From my previous readings into the varieties of philosophy, I have noticed much debate about how people should live to the metaphysical probabilities of reality and a great many other interesting facets of thought. Stoicism encourages you to live every day in accordance with nature and to cultivate character to the best of your ability. Don’t just think about how to live, practice it.

To give a super brief overview, courtesy of The Daily Stoic:

The Philosophy asserts that virtue (such as wisdom) is happiness and judgment should be based on behavior rather than words.

Continue reading “Fear It: Book Slump | My foray into Stoicism”

The Sword of Summer (Magnus Chase and the Gods of Asgard #1)

 

Rated: 3.5 solid stars

Finished: 18th January 2018.

Spoiler content: Slight, nothing major.

I got to say I am pleasantly surprised I enjoyed this as much as I have. Norse mythology is not in my comfort zone but I’m excited! Events unfolded off at a snail’s pace but eventually picked up speed, the kind of speed that required an all-nighter. Magnus and his friends are racing to find the Sword of Summer before the Giants do and to delay Ragnarok, the last war and fated death of the world. Later on, I’ll be doing some comparisons with Percy Jackson from Riordan’s Greek series, just a heads up.

The characters are deliciously diverse, for instance, Malory Keen is Celtic, Thomas Jefferson is an African-American soldier who fought in the Civil War, X is a troll and Halfborn Gunderson is an honest to goodness Viking berserker. Then we have Blitzen, a dwarf with impeccable fashion sense, and the adorable but tormented Hearthstone, a deaf elf who taught Magnus ASL.

And the fantastic Samira al-Abbas, a Muslim-American Valkyrie. There’s the issue of her hijab being a shape-shifting multi-purpose fabric, some would call it a faux pas but I I beg to differ. Look I’m Hindu and I’m aware I may be lacking on some level of cultural awareness but I think it’s pretty neat. I’m curious as to what opinions Muslims have on this. And begs the question of what interesting features could a sari have?

Plot-wise, I mentioned pacing earlier. There was a remark from a reviewer where she’s noticed Riordan reapplying a similar plot formula to the Norse series from the Greeks, that it was predictable. I understand some of this but I can disagree as well.

It’s the hero-goes-on-a-quest-to-save-the-world and both Percy and Magnus had strong bonds with their mothers who were at some point threatened. It didn’t bother me because what else is supposed to happen? Their moms were crucial to their upbringing and evil people being evil used that to their advantage. They went on quest after quest but they were totally different from the other series because the Norse are another ballgame and as I’d soon learned Magnus is no Percy.

The Villains/Gods/Giants. Generally speaking, they’re an improvement from the Greek/Roman series. Loki is one slippery fecker (surprise surprise) even I was tempted to trust him. However, he did have some valid points. Which brings me to one of the primary themes, that being the fate vs. choice dilemma. Ragnarok will happen because such is the prophecy of the Norns ages ago. Two sons of Thor are fated to survive it. Fenris Wolf is fated to be released to begin the downward spiral of events, the Sword of Summer is fated to free him. It was Loki who imparted some wisdom to Magnus, one of my favourite lines:

“The thing about fate, Magnus: even if we can’t change the big picture, our choices can alter the details. That’s how we rebel against destiny, how we make our mark. What will you choose to do?”

Continue reading “The Sword of Summer (Magnus Chase and the Gods of Asgard #1)”

Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them (Hogwarts Library) by Newt Scamander, J.K. Rowling

 

Rated it: 4.5 stars

Read: December 2017

Read count: 2

See my review for The Tales of Beedle the Bard

The first time I read this it was a copy of my cousins, three years ago when I was visiting in England. A slim red paperback edition with Harry’s scribbles which I’d thoroughly enjoyed. I believe that being on the island, while not in Scotland where Hogwarts is, added more to the sublime atmosphere. At the time this was one of the three books of the Hogwarts Library Collection that I did not have.

Ah, but I remedied that recently and now I have in my possession the edition above published just last year. A gorgeous hardcover, smooth as a baby’s bum and has an illustration of a Runespoor, the three-headed serpent, on the back cover.

While sans scribbles it has a forward by the man himself, Newt Scamander, who briefly mentioned on the incidents in the movie adaptation of Fantastic Beasts which in my opinion was a brilliant touch for those of us who have watched the movie, fostering a sense of familiarity.

The introduction states what is considered a Being and a Beast and the controversies that have challenged and modified the definitions over the years; and how they’ve secretly coexisted with muggle-kind. Continue reading “Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them (Hogwarts Library) by Newt Scamander, J.K. Rowling”

Thoughts on John Green’s Labyrinth

Eyeball that bit of wisdom. Read it again. One more time to be sure. Okay then. Maybe you recognize some of that in yourself, I know I do.

An infernally astute quote from John’s debut novel, Looking for Alaska. “Infernal” because it illustrates a sort of personal hell I should be scrambling to escape. A loop whose deeply rutted trail I’m vaguely aware of at the best of times and crystal sharp at the worst of times.

Which is f**king tedious? I mean if I could be aware of all the tomorrows I tell myself I have and not take them for granted, I’ll get my goals accomplished, every day I would be compelled to complete them.

But like the blessed idiot that I am, I do stupid sh*t anyway. And I could analyze to kingdom come about the lies I convince myself are truths, their roots lay in self-doubt and lack of self-compassion. I’ve thought out of the whys and have finally sifted and understood what some of my actual truths are. Three years ago this introspection would’ve been beyond me but I feel lighter at the thought that I’ve come so far that I can see how I could fortify wobbly foundations and continue to build my person. Growth is always the goal.

But essentially the labyrinth is a fantastic illusion that could make us or dismantle us and perhaps it can only work out if we realize that within it we can make new paths. That we can take a chainsaw to some of the dead ends, and plant new saplings.

The past is a ghost. The future a phantom horizon. The present? It’s where we live. It’s not always pleasant but it’s where our hearts beat, the precipice of the next moment. Isn’t it awful how we conjure those ghosts and let them possess us? How we often try to dream out the possible futures thereby plugging up the goodness that the present can offer?

I read Looking for Alaska about two years ago, stayed up until morning to finish it only to have a feeling of mental suspension and an excellent view of the void. Alaska was a bitch, sure, but to be fair she was a kid who had a lot going on under the surface.

Continue reading “Thoughts on John Green’s Labyrinth”

Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury

 

Rated: 5 Stars

Read: August 2nd, 2017

I have read many books in my almost twenty-three years of life and it should not have surprised me how a mere one hundred and ninety something page novel could contain such multitudes.

Fireman Guy Montag’s world is a bleak futuristic outlook up to its eyeballs in censorship, where ignorance is peddled by the powers that be as the height of bliss. Books are banned completely, they’re burned by the firemen, sanctioned domestic thugs that keep the sheep-like people in check.

Two pages in, he first encounters the odd young woman Clarisse McClellan who blew at the cobwebs in Guy’s head and turned some cogs he’d already begun to grease. He finally faces the truth of how unhappy he really is even though seemingly his life is pretty fine. He questions his role as a fireman. When did he even begin to burn books and why?

Increasingly the confines of little to no intelligent interactions with other people bother him, especially with his wife Mildred, whose obsession with the scripted television shows on “the walls”, “the family” in them and preoccupation with everything superficial is what pushed him over the edge.

Nobody listens anymore. I can’t talk to the walls because they’re yelling at me, I can’t talk to my wife; she listens to the walls. I just want someone to hear what I have to say. And maybe if I talk long enough it’ll make sense. And I want you to teach me to understand what I read.

He sought out a man he once met, a man of words and poetry who Guy should have reported long ago. Together they hatch a ploy to shake up the status quo but things don’t go as planned. In fact, things went dreadfully; a discovery, a betrayal, murder, a little blackmail and an escape into the wilderness.

But as fate would have it, it happened for the best in the end. Guy worried me in the beginning but he became more human to me eventually as his curiosity and instinct to preserve his free will over rode his default programming.

I’ve had my copy for over two years I think, Fahrenheit 451 is one of those books that both fascinates and disgusts me. Not for the lack of writing, mind you, but the mere idea of censorship, most especially book burning that are by no means confined to fiction as history would have you know.

There are some points that remain vague to me, a situation I can remedy with a reread or three. Here’s what I do know:

  • the setting is a city in the USA, somewhere close to Los Angeles.
  • the US is a part of a war going on in another country but is approaching the homeland.
  • not only are people encouraged to be critically stunted, they appear to be emotionally vacant as well in the sense that relationships are one of those recyclable notions. Continue reading “Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury”

Harry Potter and The Chambers of Secrets by J.K. Rowling

Rated it: 4 stars

Read count: 2

Harry Potter’s second year at Hogwarts preluded with an unexpected visit from a most unlikely creature, Dobby the house elf, who brought with him ominous tidings and a warning not to attend the wizarding institution for his own good. Despite Dobby’s numerous interventions Harry with the help Ron, and his twin brothers, escaped not only Privet Drive but the duo also worked around the block barrier of Platform 9 & 3/4 in a most interesting fashion.

The plot is centered around the legend of the Chamber of Secrets and the Hier of Slytherin who has not only access to it but also the beast that resides within. It officially began with the first victim Mrs. Norris, the caretaker Filch’s cat, who was found hung petrified by her tail in the halls next to a chilling message scrawled on the wall in red lettering.

During an implemented dueling lesson led by the woefully incompetent and absolutely rank git Gilderoy Lockhart, latest DADA professor, an incident involving Harry, Draco Malfoy and Ernie Macmillan led most of the student body to suspect that Harry was the Hier. Where Voldemort fits into this? That’s an excellent question.

All the signs were there but I, like most I imagine, was too anxious and curious to take the time to analyze much in my first reading. Subtle hints, such sneaky writing has never delighted me and at the same time invoked a sense of sadness before.

Continue reading “Harry Potter and The Chambers of Secrets by J.K. Rowling”

Why do you read?

An old shelfie

I’m curious, are many of you readers? By readers I mean do you read to live? Is it essential as the air you breathe?

If yes, to read to live isn’t the answer to my question though. Is it an escape from reality? A quest for knowledge and empathy?

These dead leaves and digitalized words open portals to other worlds that allow us to experience life as we’ve never known it. They keep ignorance at bay and encourage us to open our eyes to notice the world around us, to make you wonder “Who around me is going through pain and suffering and are they’re hiding it?”

If anything, they are our stout companions in our hour of loneliness and trouble. My reasons for reading are included above but I’ll list them properly:

  • to understand the choices people make and how they live with them
  • to learn as much as I can about foreign vistas without all the travel
  • to not be alone
  • to be informed
  • to become a better writer Continue reading “Why do you read?”